The ongoing series recently wrapped its first major arc with issue #4, and in its opening salvo, the creator let loose a whirlwind of revelations about Hellboy’s parentage, his family tree, his relationship to Satan and the future of the underworld kingdom as a whole. But now that Hell stands without a ruler — and in some ways without a purpose — Mignola is poised to take the series in the direction he’s personally been looking forward to for years. Gone will be the epic struggles over the Right Hand of Doom and the prophetic visions of armies set to conquer earth. Instead, “Hellboy In Hell” is ready to take its protagonist into the role of wandering hero in a run of ultra-short tales.
CBR News spoke with Mignola about his goals for the series as well as his last epic story for a while. Below, the cartoonist explains how taking the crown off of all of Hell’s kings has made the book a complimentary title to his “B.P.R.D.” series, why Hellboy himself no longer carries the weight of his doomed destiny, what long term plot threads he will explore in the series — eventually — and why short and sweet stories will dictate when you see the series again.
CBR News: Mike, “Hellboy In Hell” ended its first arc with a lot of new information and a lot of crazy imagery. Was it your goal to say, “Let’s wrap up all the big mysteries about Hellboy and Hell itself so I can set him adrift after?”
Mike Mignola: Yeah. I really enjoyed doing those four issues, but they were really a transitional thing from “Hellboy” to what issue #5 and on will be, and that’s mostly smaller stories where I’ve erased Hellboy’s past. It’s really interesting because what I’m finding is that while I tried to erase all this shit that was attached to Hellboy, Hellboy’s presence in Hell is becoming a snowball that gets bigger and bigger. Or maybe it makes ripples in a pond that get bigger. Hellboy has so much impact on Hell. While he’s the star of the book, I think it’s more about his impact on the world and the idea of how that world is going to change.
We’ll get a little bit of that in issue #5. Even though #5 is a stand alone story, there is some discussion with other characters about what things were like and how things have changed since Hellboy got there. We’re kind of deconstructing the world like we are in “B.P.R.D.” — or we’re evolving it or devolving it or whatever we’re doing. Hell will be going through its own changes just because Hellboy’s been plopped in there.
The central question the end of this story seems to pose is, “What becomes of Hell when no one is trying to conquer it?” No one is trying to invade the Earth from Hell now. No one is trying to be its King. Is that what pushes the world forward in a weird way?
Yeah. I mean, I’m not saying that at no point will anybody want to take it over, but that’s certainly not what the plot is about. The plot’s about what happens when all the guys who used to run things aren’t answering their phone anymore. And what happens to those middle ground demonic figures who don’t have a boss anymore? What do those guys do. It’s a fun background to set stories in. And it’s also about the mechanics of how my version of Hell works. It’s such a big playground to play in. There’s so many things to do, and of course I’m so damn slow that it drives me crazy. I can plot six issues in an average shower, but then I get out and I spend all day drawing a panel and a half. I just end up scratching my head and going, “Gee, what am I going to do this issue?” I’ve plotted so far ahead now that it’s a matter of having the time to draw all these stories.
How do you move forward on the personal front with Hellboy? We had this big battle in #3 with his uncle and his two brothers, but there’s also mention of a sister there, and later Sir Edward speaks of three more things Hellboy is destined to do. Are you just sign-posting out some challenges for him that he’ll stumble upon eventually?
All those things — unlike how I wrote for the first 20 years — I actually know what they are. [Laughs] I spent ten or 15 years writing Hellboy stuff and going, “Ooo, that sounds good! I don’t know what it means, but I’ll throw it out there and figure out what it means eventually.” Now I’ve plotted it out so far that I do know what’s going on with his sister. I do know what the three things are that he still has to do. But again, none of those things are going to dominate the book in terms of Hellboy. It’s just some shit that’s going to be hanging over his head for a while. And I don’t see him spending a lot of time saying…well, the conversation about the three things happened without him being there, but even if he was inclined to inquire about what those are, he doesn’t know about them. I like when other characters know more about Hellboy than he does. And he’s not really looking for that stuff anyway.
He’s in a funny spot because how do you write a character who’s dead, who’s left everything behind and goes, “Huh. What do I do now”? It’s kind of funny. I don’t think he’s sleep walking, but he’ll just do whatever comes along.
We do get a real moment where Hellboy reveals his feelings though in issue #3 where he says, “Why me?” in very small, sad type. But now as a character, has he turned a page on the guilt and worry he’s felt about being the right hand of doom all these years?
That’s what I felt his last line in issue #4 was. He lights a cigarette and is like, “Okay, I guess I’m getting on with my life. Whatever my afterlife is, I guess this is where it starts.” It’s not, “How do I get out of here?” You’re dead. What are you going to do? What can you do when you wake up on another planet basically and you don’t exist in the other world anymore? You just say, “I guess I’ll see what’s here.”
You’re working on more stories now. Are you planning on completing new stories and then sending them out for solicits like you did these first four?
I wish. [Laughter] The biggest problem I see as far as PR for the next billion years is explaining endlessly not only that there’s no “Hellboy 3” movie, but it’s going to be explaining “It’s a series, but it’s not a monthly series.” The numbers for “Hellboy In Hell” will continue, but it’s going to come out whenever it comes out. Issue #5 is a stand-alone issue, so as soon as it’s done enough that Dark Horse can schedule it, that’s what they’ll do. But I’m always juggling other stuff. I’m doing covers, and some of these covers take a really long time. It’s not that I’ve got nothing else to do but sit down and draw the comic. I wish I had nothing else to do but draw the comic, but there’s a certain amount of juggling. I don’t want a deadline hanging around my neck because I don’t work well that way. So as soon as issue #5 is “gettin there,” we’ll place it on the schedule. Issue #6 is a done-in-one, and as soon as it’s done enough, Dark Horse will schedule it. As we get beyond and into #7 and 8, we’ll be getting into some two-issue stories, and I’ll make sure those two issues come out monthly. That’s how it’s going to go.
And I don’t want to do anything longer than a two-issue story. I want to keep this thing small. I don’t want it to turn into some gigantic thing the way it was. There’s some big stories coming, but I’m going to try to do really big stories that take place in two issues.